More than $140 billion in tax refunds may be delayed, 38 million low-income Americans could lose food stamps if the government shutdown stretches into February.
Those are two potential consequences of the government shutdown that might not have been considered by President Trump when he closed large portions of the government as hostage to his demand that Congress give him $5 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The government shutdown began on Dec. 22, after Trump refused to sign a bipartisan measure to fund numerous federal agencies through Feb. 8, but there is no apparent end to the stand off except surrender of one side or the other, although Republicans know the White House is clearly to blame.
President Trump signed an executive order Friday that freezes federal workers’ pay, making 1.8 million non-military employees ineligible to receive a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise.
“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents over 100,000 federal workers. “As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”
Trump’s declaration that the government can’t afford to give a scheduled pay raise to federal workers comes less than a year after he passed a law that gave a massive $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to America’s super-wealthy and corporations.
Trump’s tax cuts and spending increases will contribute $5.2 trillion to the national debt but he says swiping the two percent from workers, who make annual wages of $53,180 to $84,153, will “put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.”
About 420,000 people are under orders to keep working without pay, but that expectation is showing signs of stress.
Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners who are expected to work without getting paychecks during the government shutdown have been calling in sick so they can earn money at other jobs so they can pay rent, mortgages and child care costs.
Hydrick Thomas, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2222, said significant numbers of TSA agents called in sick each day this week at major airports in New York, Texas and North Carolina.
“While Congress and Mr. Trump get to stay home, enjoy their personal time with their families, and still get paid, we have to struggle and suffer,” said one TSA officer and single mother who did not want to be identified. “Most of us live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to be unpaid and still go to work for long. It is not fair.”
The government shutdown has the potential to affect nearly every facet of American life, from delaying package deliveries and air travel to putting almost a million federal employees at risk of missing payments for credit-cards, rent or mortgage bills, and other expenses.
That could have significant economic consequences, like a chain reaction to those missing payments.
“Failing to fund the government has real consequences,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive New Jersey Democrat. “A 16-day shutdown in 2013, cost Americans $24 billion, caused hundreds of cancer patients to miss clinical trials, deprived 6,300 Head Start children of 9 days, stopped 1,200 EPA site inspections plus 1,400 OSHA inspections.”
“Federal employees want to go to work. They believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “But now, 420,000 of them will report to work on Monday and won’t get paid for it. More than 380,000 employees will be locked out of work without pay. This is the third shutdown of the year, and it’s no way to run our country.”
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